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Visual Novel / Highway Blossoms

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Marina and Amber.
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Highway Blossoms is a Ren'Py-based Kinetic Novel made by Alienworks.

The journal of an old gold rush miner is discovered, and within it are hints to where his treasure may be hidden. A second gold rush of sorts is sparked as the book is snapped up by every would-be prospector in the country, all of whom want to find the treasure first. But Amber hasn't even noticed, distracted as she is by the recent death of the grandfather who raised her. On her way to a music festival she'd planned on attending with him, she comes across Marina stuck on the side of the road and ends up getting pulled into the gold rush as well.

Highway Blossoms was released on Steam on June 17, 2016. The game is all-ages by default, but a free adult patch can be downloaded on the game's website.

An update known as Highway Blossoms Remastered was released on May 18, 2018, which includes some new artwork, full English voice acting, and a Chinese translation.

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Provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Amber begins using "Mare" for Marina as they grow closer. Near the end of the game she discovers that Joseph also uses the same nickname for Mariah, due to their similar-sounding names.
  • The Alleged Car: Marina's car (in fact her brother's) died of old age in the middle of the road, thus initiating the plot. When it was stolen later, it turned out it wasn't worth much more than scrap metal it was made from.
  • And the Adventure Continues:
    • Sort of. While they aren't in any hurry to go on another wacky treasure hunt, it's clear Amber and Marina have no intention of settling down and will keep travelling the country together.
    • The Stinger also indicates no signs of stopping for Mariah's posse, as they have stumbled upon news of a missing car carrying wads of cash. After the music festival ends, they go on another treasure hunt, so to speak.
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  • Anti-Climax: Zion National Park is the first place Amber wanted to go see, and she spends a lot of time talking it up. Unfortunately the weather reduces visibility to zero, resulting in them nearly killing themselves getting up to the top and then staring at nothing but cloud.
  • The Alcoholic: Mariah.
  • All There in the Manual: The characters' last names aren't mentioned in game, only in a tweet from one of the developers. Averted in the end credits of the remastered version, as the main characters' full names are displayed alongside the characters' respective voice actors.
  • Bi the Way: Marina has had two boyfriends before, though one was when she was twelve and the other she describes as ‘boring’. Still there’s no suggestion she’s anything other than bisexual.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Amber and Marina share their First Kiss as the sunset hovers over the Fire Wave Trail.
  • Black Bra and Panties: Mariah wears these, as evidenced every time she appears on screen thanks to her constantly unzipped jumpsuit.
  • Brick Joke: An early gag implies that Mariah and Joseph had a bet that Amber and Marina were in a relationship, with Mariah handing Joseph some cash when the pair deny it. Near the end of the game, Joseph slips some cash to Mariah when the girls kiss in front of them.
  • Broken Bird: Downplayed, as Amber has had a relatively good life. Her grandfather’s illness and death (and her mother abandoning her as a child) have clearly left her in the ‘depression’ stage of grief however.
  • The Cameo: Senri Kanzaki, a character from another Alienworks visual novel The Human Reignition Project, briefly appears during the music festival, but only in Goofball Mode.
  • Child Hater: Amber’s ability to shut up brats with a single glare becomes a bit of a running joke.
  • Closet Key: It's heavily implied that Amber is this to Marina, with Marina realizing and coming to grips with her bisexuality pretty much right before she and Amber get their Relationship Upgrade.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Being a massive hippy, Amber's grandfather was one. A bit of it has rubbed off on her.
  • Covert Pervert: It's relatively minor, but Amber does sneak a few side glances at Marina (like when she's wearing Amber's old slightly too-small gym uniform as bed clothes or at her legs when she puts her feet up on the dashboard), but she begins to feel bad about it after she starts developing feelings for her. After they have sex for the second time, as Marina is heading to have a shower, still naked from the love-making, she actually catches Amber watching her in the rear-view mirror of the motorhome and casually adjusts the clothes she's carrying to give her a better look.
  • Creepy Child: Amber thinks Tess is one due to he Stoic personality and quiet nature.
  • Curse Cut Short: Lil' Tess was almost close to delivering a Precision F-Strike regarding the difficulty of her crew in getting into Double Arch, which is one of the rock formations at Arches National Park.
    Tess: Sis said anyone who bothered to get out was a fu—
    Mariah: You weren't supposed to hear that!
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Downplayed, but some bits of dialogue from Joseph implies that he, like Amber, has had to cope with losing a close family member.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Mariah, whenever she gets behind the wheel of the Trio's motorhome.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Amber and Mariah go on a drink together on the latter's RV to drown out their own sorrows. Amber does it because she realizes she was using Marina all along as a coping mechanism for her grandpa's passing, while Mariah does it because she lost both the treasure and her own pride to Amber and Marina.
  • Eureka Moment: Amber has one regarding the location of the final treasure. It happens when Amber is remarking that people used to call her a "chip off the old block" in regards to her grandfather, which is what provides the eureka. The Prospector talks about hiding the treasure between two prominent standing stones, which has led the majority of treasure hunters to search the area around the Windarch stones, which would seem to fit the bill. However, Amber realizes thanks to her knowledge of national parks that there was previously another set of twinned standing stones in the park, but that fifty years ago one of them collapsed and now just looks like another big rock on the ground...but it's called "the chip off the block", and would have still been standing when the Prospector went by. This leads her to realize that's where the treasure is buried, not at Windarch. Unfortunately, she has this realization right in front of Mariah, who realizes what Amber's figured out, leading to a high-speed motorhome chase.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Joe and Tess both disapprove of Mariah scamming Marina out of the gold in a game of poker. Joe tries to have the whole deal annulled, and Tess outright admits she'd help the girls cheat the double-or-nothing game if they asked.
  • Friend to All Children: In contrast to Amber, who is not overly fond of children, Marina gets along great with them, as evidenced mostly with her interactions with Tess.
  • Funny Background Event: Tess silently sliding back and forth across the screen as the Trio attempts to get Amber back into town before Marina leaves to go back home after their fight with a severely hung-over Mariah at the wheel of the motorhome.
  • Gayngst: Averted; Amber is already comfortable with her sexuality at the start of the story, and even after working out her own bisexuality, Marina is never bothered by being in a relationship with another woman or any of the usual assorted problems. While they do run into relationship issues not long after getting together, they stem from Amber's fear that she's been unintentionally using Marina as a way to cope with the recent loss of her grandfather and her own fear of what a life with someone who truly cares about her could be like, not because they're both women.
  • Goldfish Poop Gang: Mariah and her crew have a habit of tailing Amber and Marina, even after the treasure hunt's over.
  • Heroic BSoD: Mariah briefly shuts down after Marina and Amber find the first piece of the treasure, since the location it was buried in doesn't make sense if the prospector was trying to head back to Missouri. She has to be led away by Joseph and Tess while muttering under her breath trying to figure it out, oblivious to everything else.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Marina is more perceptive than she seems, often spotting Amber’s emotional states and triggers and working out her sexual orientation at least a short while before it actually comes up in conversation.
    • She's also right that Mariah would be terrible at poker... unfortunately she failed to consider she might be worse.
    • She also loves rap music. Amber briefly considers breaking up with her at this, before (reluctantly) admitting the artists in question are actually pretty good (and that she had after all submitted Marina to weird old guys doing acoustic jamming for weeks).
    • Mariah has some as well. Not only does she give Amber some solid advice, some of her dialog and alcohol issues imply she's hiding an Inferiority Superiority Complex.
  • Hope Is Scary: Amber starts to lose it right after getting together with Marina, the idea that she has a future and someone who cares about her clearly puncturing a hole through her stoic act.
  • Ill Boy: The Prospector who hid the gold died of an unspecified illness (possibly black lung) after returning to Missouri but before he could bring his family back out west. His journal entries mention a persistent cough that he can't shake and how he collapsed in the desert and had to be rescued by a local native, Lamasi.
  • Jerkass: Mariah, from beginning to end. Even when she's giving good advice and saving the day, she's still casually insulting everyone around her.
  • The Lad-ette: Mariah's loud, aggressive, and drinks like a fish. Amber even thinks her motorhome looks like a fratpad upon seeing it.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: Marina says Amber reminds her of her father, Amber says Marina reminds her a bit of her grandfather.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Tess.
  • Lip-Lock Sun-Block: Having just found the last of the gold, Amber and Marina decide to hike the Fire Wave Trail at the end of the day to celebrate. As the sun sets, they are rewarded and overwhelmed by the scenery, and Amber kisses Marina to complete the Relationship Upgrade.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Marina plays the role almost precisely.
  • Moment Killer: The Trio end up ruining a moment for Amber and Marina at the Grand Canyon, just before they're about to kiss.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Mariah is quite well-endowed, and leaves her jumpsuit almost completely unzipped all the time, showing off her bra, belly, and even part of her panties as well. Amber's narration of their first meeting even notes that she constantly looks like she might burst out of her clothes.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Amber is horrified when she realizes she's been using Marina to cope with her grandfather's death, especially after using her as Sex for Solace.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Enforced with Joseph, as he mentions that he's spent most of his life smoothing over the issues Mariah causes.
    • Marina consistently regards Mariah as her friend, and is never long phased by Amber's bad temper and emotional outbursts.
  • Not a Morning Person: Marina has this trait, which contrasts notably with her usual demeanor. It doesn't take long for her to perk up, however.
  • Not What It Looks Like: After Amber and Marina come back from a failed treasure hunt in a Navajo ruin somewhere in Canyon de Chelly, Linda (who also comes to the ruin along with her husband and child) presumes that they both snuck out of the guided tour of said ruin to, well, make out and stuff. Of course, the two deny this.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Amber's mother abandoned her to be raised by her grandfather.
    • There is presumably a reason that eleven-year-old Tess is being raised by her sister, but it's never explained in-game.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Mariah and Joseph turn out to be this, after Amber inquires if the two of them are a couple, flatly denying the two of them are in a relationship, though she admits if he's still single in ten more years, she might marry him out of pity.
  • Precision F-Strike: Downplayed as it doesn't really work, but Marina of all people is the one to drop the F word during a argument later in the game.
  • Protectorate: Amber comes to see protecting Marina as her responsibility.
  • Potty Emergency: After visiting the Grand Canyon, Marina suddenly has an urge to poop due to eating a gas station burrito beforehand. She begs Amber to stop at a nearby rest stop, and Amber eventually says yes after some persistent begging.note 
  • Quit Your Whining: The first part of Mariah's "pep talk" to Amber. Amber gets the treasure and gets the girl, but is going to throw it all away because she feels a little guilty? Please.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Amber was mostly raised by her grandfather.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • The second sex scene sees Marina take the lead, which is as awkward as you might imagine considering she's a virgin who's considered herself straight up to now. Amber eventually fakes a orgasm, considering they might be here all night otherwise.
    • Their first sex scene has an issue too. Does it seem weird to you that Amber went from breaking down over the loss of her grandfather to having passionate sex with Marina at the drop of a hat? Because it should.
    • After unlocking the Goofball Mode by completing the game, one of the options is to play the game in "Extreme" difficulty, which involves an unskippable timer popping up that forces you to play the game in real time whenever the characters are driving a long distance (the girls' very first trip down the road to a gas station freezes the game for 30 minutes, and it just gets worse from there).
  • Replacement Goldfish: Amber fears that Marina is this for her, an easily duped little girl to make her feel less lonely after her grandfather's passing.
  • The Rival: Mariah quickly becomes one to Amber in the search for the lost treasure, culminating in a high-speed motorhome chase to get to the third treasure box after they simultaneously figure out where it must have actually been hid.
  • Road Trip Plot: Amber picks up Marina on her way to a music festival, with quite a few stops along the way.
  • Second Love: Amber was serious with a girl throughout high school, but said girl moved away to pursue her education. Marina had a boyfriend when she was twelve, but they broke up when his mom objected. Marina insists this was devastating at the time.
  • Shout-Out: Goofball Mode's Extreme difficulty, where Amber and Marina's travels take place in real time, is a reference to Desert Bus. There's even an achievement called "Desert RV" for completing the first drive.
  • Sex for Solace: Amber seems to briefly consider this after her fight with Marina near the end of the story and walking out on her; she ends up passing by what is heavily implied to be a lesbian bar and catches the eye of an attractive young woman inside, but ultimately backs off and ends up running into the desert. Likewise, the fight itself is brought on after Amber and Marina have sex for the first time after Marina tries to comfort her when the reality of Amber's grandfather's death finally hits her and leads to them sleeping together. The idea that she might have been trying to use Marina for this and that she might have forced her into it are what leads Amber to try to end the relationship, but after they've patched things up, Marina assures Amber that if she hadn't wanted to, she would have said so.
  • Silliness Switch: After completing the game once, you can play through "Goofball Mode", which is mostly the same but adds various memes and lampshading of tropes throughout, or "EZ Mode", which goes through the story in about a minute and is hilarious.
  • Survivor Guilt: Amber blames herself for her grandfather's passing, believing that she could have done more to improve his health and that she failed him, the only person in her life who loved her before that point. It gets deep enough that it interferes with her relationship with Marina later on.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Amber being the tomboy and Marina the girly girl, naturally. Downplayed a bit, though. Amber's rather emotional, and Marina is still perfectly willing to go hiking with Amber (while wearing a dress).
  • The Un-Reveal: It's never revealed what happened to the second box of treasure; if someone already found it or if it was even in the Mummy Cave to begin with. Likewise, it's never explained what gift Marina was trying to get Amber in Vegas before she got waylaid by Mariah and the rest of the Trio, as Marina still refuses to divulge that information afterwards.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Actually works both ways. Amber is the open road traveler with no roots, but she’s emotionally closed off and lacking enthusiasm for life. Marina has never been outside the state and has a stable family, but is an honest free spirit. They both find the wild qualities in the other liberating.
  • Wisdom from the Gutter: Mariah of all people ends up being the one to help Amber out of her funk.
  • Yuri Genre: The game focuses on the relationship between Amber and Marina and how they end up falling for each other.

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